Inspection and Fractographic Analysis to Develop a Digital Twin for B1 Aircraft

NCMS Project #: 141065

Problem: Lacking ownership of much of the necessary data, personnel do not have sufficient information to evaluate either changes in mission usage or damage that is found within the fleet n important use of simulation is in the assessment of the expected operational life of the system.  In this regard, a digital twin can keep track of its mortality based on the wear and tear experienced by the physical twin.  By employing simulation, the digital twin can use predictive maintenance techniques to estimate the remaining working life of the physical twin and proactively schedule and perform system shut down rather than wait for the breakdown of the physical twin, which can be both expensive and potentially catastrophic.  Fractographic analysis can also provide detailed information on the origination feature of the crack, which can be important, particularly if the cause is not solely part geometry/stress concentration driven.  

Benefit: While this project is targeted at a specific model, the B-1 Lancer, this project can serve as a pilot program for the development and validation of a digital twin strategy required to support aircraft that are in a similar data situation as the B-1, and can be extended to other fleets as well.  Development of a digital twin will provide an owned tool that can be used to evaluate damage or changes to the aircraft usage in order to repair, modify the design, modify structural inspection intervals or even reevaluate the design life of the asset.

Solution/Approach: This initiative will use the B-1 as a surrogate to industry to provide a model/template that addresses how to create detailed digital twins for legacy aircraft where much of the requisite technical data is missing.  The focus is to develop and validate the digital twin of a B1 wing, to support the sustainment and fleet readiness needs of the Air Force.  The primary concern for the B1 wing digital twin is to address structural fatigue to support the fleet.

Impact on Warfighter:

  • Greater safety and security
  • Reduce costs
  • Increase productivity
  • Improve warfighter readiness

DOD Participation:

  • Air Force B-1 SPO

Industry Participation:

  • Wichita State University – National Institute for Aviation Research (NIAR)
  • NCMS

Benefit Area(s):

  • Cost savings
  • Repair turn-around time
  • Maintenance avoidance and reliability
  • Obsolescence management and continued maintenance capability
  • Maintenance management improvement
  • Improved readiness
  • Durability
  • Reliability improvement
  • Lightweighting

Focus Area:

  • Business IT and analytics